October 27, 2012

Buttons, Buttons, and Cats

Well, here is an actual, completed project using some of the myriad of buttons I have been acquiring.  Yea!

This little piece has a story.  Of course.  My friend Gloria gave me her mom's button box.  Her mom was a super accomplished seamstress, with tons of various skills and talents.  I decided right away that I needed to make some sort of memorial piece for Gloria, to celebrate her mom and her love of sewing.

I dug out this adorable cat print panel from my stash of vintage quilt repair fabrics.  I'd bought it for repairing quilts with that kind of murky yellow.  Gloria's mom loved cats.  Gloria loves cats.  And being old, I'm thinking 1940s-ish, the fabric could have been being used in the era when Gloria's mom was starting to put all her skills to good use in her homemaking.  So choosing this fabric was really a no-brainer.  It must have been made as a table topper or some such thing.  It had been edged with a red bias binding.  I liked the added touch of the little cut corners, too.  It is 35" x 28".

I layered in a piece of flannel for some extra weight, and backed it with a new, solid red cotton.  I picked one special button to decorate the knot on each kitty's bow.  I chalked in wandering lines between the cats, and then had a great time stitching on the buttons.  The sewing goes through all three layers.  I picked the buttons randomly, but with an eye to keeping the sizes and colors balanced.

There are two kitties right at the bottom edge who seem to be really fascinated by something.  I decided to put two little ladybug buttons on the binding for them to look at.

Since I like cats and buttons and sewing, too, this was a great treat to work on.

October 21, 2012

Something From Nothing

Several years ago, I was contacted by an interior decorator who was clearing out her studio.  She wondered if I'd like her old fabric samples.  "Sure!" I said, never one to turn down a gift of cool fabric.  I drove over to her place, and discovered that she had enough to fill my trunk.  Wow.  
I brought it all home, sorted it out, gave what I didn't think I'd ever use to a grade school art room, and piled the rest into a big plastic storage bin.  

And there it sat for a few more years, until my kids grew up and there began to be more time for art.  What with parenting and repairing quilts, I hadn't done much play for the sake of play for quite a while.

I came up with a plan, my own personal challenge quilt project:
1. In each little quilt, I have to use all of the colorways of a print or a variety of prints that relate somehow.
2. I have to make the design of the quilt relate in some way to the print design on the fabric.  
3. I can't buy anything unless I run out of batting scraps or don't have a large enough piece for the back.

The series is entitled "Something From Nothing", and the title of each quilt is a word or two that simply names the shapes or colors or theme.

Here are the four most recently completed and photographed.  (Here's a post on how I photograph my quilts.)
Something From Nothing: Greenly Striped

Something From Nothing: Delft
(The tile shapes have a couple of layers of batting inside to make them stand up a bit from the "grouting" background fabric.)

Something From Nothing: 2 1/4"
(Uses 5 different fabric styles, all based on 2 1/4" units.)

Something From Nothing: Night Garden
(Flowers, stars, and leaves are all cut from the same print. The stars are the shapes left over when the larger shapes were cut apart.)

These are all machine sewn, except for the beading and some edge finishing.  

The title is a from song by Susan Salidor.  She was a favorite of my kids when they were young.  We heard her perform many times and bought her (at that time) tapes.  Many, many miles were driven while singing along with her songs.  This song is her re-telling of a Jewish folktale about a grandpa who is a tailor and is able to re-make his grandson's blanket into smaller and smaller things as each thing wears out - a jacket, a vest, a tie, a handkerchief, a button.  And finally, even Grandpa can't make something from nothing, but the grandson realizes that actually there's enough "material" to make a great story.  It's lovely!

Making these quilts really is my playtime - no deadlines, no goals, no rules except my own, no one else to please.  I'm having a great time.

October 17, 2012

And While We're Visiting the 1950s....

Yesterday, with the poodle skirt blog in process and my mind in the 1950s, I found myself using my vintage Sunbeam Mixmaster while making dinner.  It was a wedding gift to my parents who got married in 1949.  

It's still going strong.  A couple of years ago, I sent it to the vintage mixer "spa" for an overhaul.  I've got no affiliation or anything, but if you have a vintage mixer, you will really enjoy this site.  I love my oldie-but-goodie mixer, and was delighted to find someone who could give it lots of TLC and keep it humming along.  I feel like Phil's mixer business is much like my quilt business, caring for cherished items that often hold lots of history and memories, and are generally just very cool.

I have so many memories of being small enough to sit on the counter next to this mixer and help my mom make cookies and cakes by adding bits of the ingredients as the blades whirled and the bowl spun slowly around.  I found it fascinating to watch each new ingredient spiral into the mix and eventually blend in.  Not to mention the fun of eating the delicious end products.  Ahhhh.....

October 16, 2012

Poodle Skirt!

Here's a really-truly poodle skirt, the iconic fashion item of the 1950s.  I did some repair work on it for the Basya Berkman Etsy shop.

It's a traditional felt circle skirt with appliquéd poodle.  Super simple construction - a big circle of felt plus waistband and side zipper - no hem needed since the felt doesn't ravel a bit.  No wonder they were such a popular style!  The thread attaching the waistband was wearing out, so my job was to restitch that and now it's ready to rock'n'roll again.  

Here and here is an informative 2-part blog post about the history of the skirt style.  There is actually a documented story of the maker and her rise to fame with her design.  I love that she is quoted as saying, "I cut it out of felt, because I didn't know how to sew..."  Grin.

I think circle skirts are the most flattering way to make a full skirt.  At the hem, it's super full, but there is relatively little bulk at the waist and hips compared to a gathered skirt.  And the fullness falls in very graceful ripples.  They were sometimes worn with a really full petticoat for added swoosh and swing while dancing.

Just add roller skates (and not roller blades, of course), and the 1950s are happening all over again!  

October 14, 2012


This weekend, my sewing time was devoted to starting to sort and unearth things in the super, over-the-top, clutter in my sewing room.  

For a long time, I've been looking for a replacement for the little plastic drawers that are home to notions, tools, floss, and embellishments.  They are so full that, as you can see, they are no longer functional at all.  I scored this lovely little drawer unit at an estate sale.

(Of course, part of the reason those drawers are so full is that I keep picking up odds and ends and extra needles and snaps and a really cool old wooden darning egg, etc., etc., etc., at those great estate sales.....)

So anyhow, I sorted and re-organized and culled, and now the old drawers are empty enough to work again, and there is space for them up on top of some short shelves, and the new drawers are in place and also not overly full.

There are piles and piles of things you can't see in this photo.  

The room is very, very crowded.  When we moved into the house 20+ years ago, I used two bedrooms for my stuff.  Then we had our kids "move in", and I scrunched things into this one room and a corner of my husband's office.  Then I branched out from just the quilt biz into the costuming thing as well.  So my supplies stash expanded in quality and therefore quantity at the same time my space was cut in half.  That's my excuse, anyway.  

I don't think I can bear to publish "before" photos, but I'll be sure to show you the lovely "after" photos!  

Here are close-ups of a couple of the things on the wall:  first, a clock I made many years ago, using a mariner's compass block. 

And second, a lovely little oil painting by my Uncle Ken.  He took up painting as a retirement activity.  I love this one especially.  It really sums up his sense of humor and style.  He lived in northern England, and retired to a little stone house called Ivy Cottage that was built in the 1850s or so.  I made him a pillow with the English Ivy block when he moved in.

Between this rainy October evening, when the world is closing down for the winter, and the sorting through old photos and piles this afternoon, well, it's not surprising I'm indulging in a bit of nostalgia.

October 4, 2012

The Race to the Top

Last night, my refrigerator quilt post overtook the beaded wedding dress in number of visitors.  It now sits in the place of honor to your right as one of the top six most popular posts on my blog.

I'm really enjoying watching the statistics of page views and readership.  I'm closing in on 7000 views since my blog was born, not a huge number in the world of the internet, but it sounds really big to me.  And the count of countries represented is currently a whopping 51.  That's the stat that makes me the happiest!  I feel like I'm sitting here watching the planet shrink.

And now, I'll go back to work, so I can have more wonderful things to post about.  Today I'm working on a batch of vintage clothing repairs, and a customer just delivered a wonderful early 1800s era quilt for repair work.  I will have much to say about that one.

Canadian Couture

Here's a skirt I've repaired for Basya Berkman Vintage Fashions.  My friend Julia, who researches the clothing she sells there, told me to check out the interesting story behind this piece.  

It's a crepe fabric, fully lined.  The hem trims are, from top to bottom:
1. woven band with black beads covered with a basket weave of thread
2. wide woven band with woven ribbon threaded through it
3. woven band with a satin ribbon center
4. fringe of woven ribbon loops
It's kind of hard to photograph as it's all black on black, but I can assure you that the trims are really rich and intricate.

The interesting story is about the designer, Maggy Reeves of Toronto, Canada.  

She started her business in the 1960s and 70s.  At that time, she was one of very few women with her own line of couture clothing, a pioneer into the man's world of the big name fashion business.  Many of her pieces were made to order, one-of-a-kind.

A nice telling of her story can be found here.

This is not "just" an unusually embellished black skirt!  Just a little bit of research can lead to some interesting and important information.